The elephant parade

The elephant parade

Michael Jackson on recurring dreams of the circus coming to town
Michael Jackson

11 October 2006

Publication: Issue 59

Wake up. Better try again. A sentence that ends in a preposition is not a propitious way to begin a new day.Don't know where I am. Never do until the day's first downfall of coffee. "Bad for your blood pressure," warns my doctor. "The decaf was killing me," I protest. She smothers a laugh. The joke was accidental, spontaneous, unintended, I claim. My jokes are wearing thin with her. My doctor is a beautiful woman. When she takes my blood pressure, it is always dangerously high. When she is not available, various male doctors in the practice ask for my arm, but find less to worry them. When I mentioned this, she didn't know whether to be flattered or bored. Our professional relationship took a downturn when she got married to a fellow with a nose for malt beverages. She likes a drink or three herself, but doesn't want every weekend to be a beer-hunt or whisky chase inspired by one of my books, articles or TV programmes.I think she secretly enjoys the thought that I may be cracking under the strain. The morning I went to the airline ticket desk but couldn't remember my proposed destination.Or the day I flew to the wrong city. "Serves him right. Doesn’t look after himself,” I hear her saying to herself."Still having vivid dreams?" she asks. That's it!Huddersfield I'm in Huddersfield. Elephants are walking through the streets. Caught napping again. When I was a boy in Huddersfield, sanserif posters announced a circus once a year. The animals arrived by train. The elephants led a parade from the railway station through the streets to the town's main park. There were also lions, in wheeled cages pulled by tractors. At junior school, I wrote an essay (we called them compositions) which began with a boy dreaming about the circus coming to town. The essay went on to describe in some detail the setting up of the big top (which I had made sure to witness); the show itself (which I had managed to see three times); and the whole caravan preparing to depart. In the next town, I concluded, a boy was dreaming about the impending arrival of lions and elephants.The almost identical first and last scenes impressed my teacher. "Good composition, good structure," he noted. I liked his choice of words, too. I gently lifted both phrases out of context, and placed them in a cool, dark place for safekeeping.I knew they would come in useful. That was long before I became a writer, let alone one who spends much of his time describing drinks. I saved the elephants, too. Or someone did, on my behalf, Carl Jung, perhaps. They are in a mental box, with a label saying "narrative devices". The label has the typographical style of old posters that announced the coming of events such as the circus, country fairs, vaudeviille shows and prize fights.The elephants appear in recurrent dreams. One of them recently metamorphosed into Dominic Roskrow, former Editor of Whisky Magazine.Each of the elephant's ears had become grey Cornish kilts.The elephantine Dominic verbally ran amok on the subject of rugby, specifically the heresy of my being what Martine Nouet so erotically dubs a Treizeistte. Dominic told me that, despite my being a stubborn Yorkshireman, I should learn to forget past grievances, "Pachyderms in Plexiglass houses," I thought to myself."Must fly," he suddenly announced, flapping his ears and levitating. Fly? An elephant? I thought momentarily that I was waking up properly, I remembered that I had dinner the previous evening with a group of whisky writers. Over the latest vintage of Glenrothes, Dominic had been in assertive mood. I had a late night and early morning, now I was on a plane. Up, up and away. As the plane climbed through the prepositions, I saw another elephant. It was turning into Richard Branson, whom I knew when he was still a teenager.(TO BE CONCLUDED)
NB: One of the elephants was pink, and no animals were harmed in the writing of this story. What cannot be denied is that Michael is a member of the Order of the Pink Elephant, in Ghent, Belgium.

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